- 20 December 2023
- 3 minutes
“The artistic mindset is one of the most unique human abilities,” says Stefan Sielaff, RCA alumnus and Vice President of Global Design for Geely Auto Group.
Earlier this year, students from the Royal College of Art’s Intelligent Mobility MA programme were given the opportunity to demonstrate their artistic mindsets as part of a collaborative project between the RCA’s Intelligent Mobility Design Centre and ZEEKR Design. The project asked students to define the design language of ZEEKR, a new electric mobility technology and solutions brand from Geely Auto Group aiming to satisfy the global demand for premium electric vehicles.
“It was a very open brief,” says Intelligent Mobility Head of Programme Dr Chris Thorpe. Geely is a Chinese company, but has strong European roots – owning a number of legacy brands, such as Volvo and Lotus, with ZEEKR itself being based in Sweden. "A main question therefore for the students, was how to define the philosophy of a future brand like ZEEKR, while building a relevant identity – both culturally and technically.”
The project ran in three stages: initially the students were asked to develop a vision for ZEEKR, what the brand should stand for - and portray this through a short film. After this they developed their vision for the brand’s identity through intense visual design research – exploring how the brand could work through vehicle representations and different scenarios of user experience.
“A main question therefore for the students, was how to define the philosophy of a future brand like ZEEKR, while building a relevant identity – both culturally and technically.”Intelligent Mobility Head of Programme
Throughout the project, the students received mentorship, in the form of tutorials, from ZEEKR’s design team, with support from a diverse mentoring team representing all seven ZEEKR design departments. The five students with the most promising concepts were then chosen to go through to the final phase, which culminated in them travelling to Gothenburg to present their designs and future visions for the brand during ZEEKR’s European launch.
“The projects were bold and extremely diverse,” Dr Thorpe explains. “Some were more tangible and vehicle based, while others were more conceptual and abstract. One notable project originated from fashion and used the effect of illumination in monochrome architectural spaces: looking at how light can define space and as it moves over surfaces during vehicle journeys.”
Along with Javier Garcia Gallardo, who studied MA Vehicle Design at the RCA in 2016 and is now Head of A.R.T (Advanced Design, Research & Technology) at ZEEKR, Stefan Sielaff provided valuable feedback to the students during the initial phases of the project in London. Stefan studied for an MA at the RCA 35 years ago, and, having returned to the RCA many times in the intervening years for degree shows and other projects, was able to share his expertise with current students.
“I’ve noticed a strong shift among RCA students over the last few years, to finding inspiration much more from an artistic starting point, instead of diving immediately into industrial feasibility assumptions for a project,” Stefan says. “I feel so inspired and refreshed by the work that the students have done during this project. This is the way we should continue to work also together in the future.”
“I’ve noticed a strong shift among RCA students over the last few years, to finding inspiration much more from an artistic starting point, instead of diving immediately into industrial feasibility assumptions for a project. I feel so inspired and refreshed by the work that the students have done during this project. This is the way we should continue to work also together in the future.”Vice President of Global Design for Geely Auto Group
“The success of a project like this is multi-faceted,” says Dr Thorpe. “In part it is about using creative methods and approaches to explore important questions about what a brand like ZEEKR can and should be. Imagining what the expectations, attitudes and mindset of future consumers will be requires imagination and vision.”
“The visit to Gothenburg was a great opportunity to see the design studios and meet people we have been working with for the last few months in real life. As valuable as remote work can be, I do believe that it's always easier and more efficient to communicate in real life to present projects.””Intelligent Mobility MA (2023)
“The goal of this project was to elevate the questions being asked by the brand and to inspire them to consider a number of new approaches and design directions. We hope that the project also encouraged ZEEKR’s designers to think more deeply about the issues and opportunities for pioneering brands.”Intelligent Mobility Head of Programme